PEOPLE OF WICCA



Those who follow the Wiccan path are a diverse group of individualists who pride themselves on being members of a religious philosophy that is flexible and adaptive to the needs of contemporary society. Athough there is the sometimes fiery debate as to the true historical roots of the faith, most Wiccans believe that none of them can dictate to any other just exactly what it is that they must believe. In other words, rather than one great book of Wiccan beliefs, an ancient Book of Shadows dogmatically outlining creeds and ecclesiasticisms, there are many books by many men and women who carefully explain the belief structures, rites, and rituals of their particular expression of the craft.

While there were no doubt hereditary witches who quietly practiced the old ways, there was little said publicly about witchcraft in Great Britain and Europe until the beginning of the twentieth century—perhaps because of the grim historical records of the Inquisition and its terrible trials for heresy and witchcraft that tormented the collective unconscious of the religiously minded. Texts about witchcraft were published by Christian scholars, and portrayed the craft as devil worship or demonic possession. Then, in 1897, Charles Godfrey Leland (1824–1903), an American who moved to England in 1870 to study gypsy love, published Aradia: The Gospel of the Witches, which detailed the rites and beliefs of the old religion that centered upon Diana, the goddess of the moon, and her daughter, Aradia. Although the book presented the Sabbats, rituals, spells, charms, and practices of witchcraft from the viewpoint of its ancient practitioners, the book went largely unnoticed by either scholars or the general public.

However, a little over 20 years later, Dr. Margaret Alice Murray (1863–1963), an Egyptologist on staff at the University College in London, began researching the thesis that witchcraft was actually the remnant of an ancient pre-Christian fertility religion that had nothing to do with the Christian concept of a devil that the witches had allegedly worshipped and brought upon them the wrath of

Zia Rose performing a Wicca ceremony. (ARCHIVES OF  BRAD STEIGER)
Zia Rose performing a Wicca ceremony. (
ARCHIVES OF BRAD STEIGER
)
the church during the time of the burning, the Inquisition. Although Murray's work underscored the research of Leland, she seemed to have been unaware of his groundbreaking studies. However, it was her book, The Witch Cult in Western Europe (1962), that established a doctrine that would be maintained for many years—Wiccans were members of an ancient pre-Christian religion that once thrived and flourished openly and had then survived underground for many centuries.

Gerald Brosseau Gardner (1884–1964) is considered the father of all contemporary expressions of Wicca, and he became a well-known practitioner of the craft due to the many books that he published on the subject after the laws against practicing witchcraft were repealed in England in 1951. Gardner claimed to have been initiated into the famous New Forest Coven in 1939 by a traditional and hereditary witch named Dorothy Clutterbuck. In 1954, Gardner published Witchcraft Today, which continued the thesis espoused by Margaret Murray that witchcraft had existed since pre-Christian times but had gone underground to escape persecution. According to many researchers, Gardner almost singlehandedly revived—some say reinvented—the worship of the Mother Goddess and combined it with elements from several other metaphysical schools. Gardnerian witchcraft influenced many practitioners, including the colorful Sybil Leek (1923–1983), who, like so many after her would do, modified Gardner's rituals and teachings to fit her own style of Wicca.

The person responsible for the introduction and growth of modern witchcraft in North America was Raymond Buckland (1934– ), an Englishman who had emigrated to the United States in 1962. In 1963, Buckland traveled to Perth, Scotland, to be initiated into Wicca by Gardner's high priestess Lady Olwen and to meet Gardner. In 1966, Buckland established a museum of witchcraft in Long Island, New York. A prolific author of more than 30 books on Wicca and related subjects, Buckland founded Seax-Wica, a new branch of the craft, in 1973.

Gavin (1930– ) and Yvonne Frost (1931– ) formed the first Wiccan Church in 1968 and in 1972 gained federal recognition of witchcraft as a religion. In 1985, they convinced a federal appeals court that Wicca was a religion equal to any other.

Today's practitioners of Wicca are scientists, engineers, radio personalities, law enforcement officers, television stars, politicians, and the complete spectrum of active and productive men and women. There are associations, centers, festivals, gatherings, and hundreds of websites to satisfy both the serious and the curious regarding the practice of Wicca.

DELVING DEEPER

Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers and Other Pagans in America Today Boston: Beacon Press, 1986.

Buckland, Raymond. Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publica tions, 1987, 1997.

Gardner, Gerald B. The Meaning of Witchcraft. New York: Samuel Weiser, 1959.

Leland, Charles G. Aradia: The Gospel of the Witches. Reprint, New York: Buckland Museum of Witch craft and Magick, 1968.

Murray, Margaret Alice. The Witch-Cult in Western Europe. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962.

DELVING DEEPER

Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers and Other Pagans in America Today. Boston: Beacon Press, 1986.

——.Heretic's Heart: A Journey through Spirit and Revolution. Boston: Beacon Press, 1997.

——. "A Time for Truth." beliefnet, [Online] http://www.beliefnet.com/story/40/story_4007.html.

Grimassi, Raven. Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 2000.

DELVING DEEPER

Bonewits, Isaac. Real Magic. New York: Coward, McCann & Georghegan, 1971.

Guiley, Rosemary. The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft. New York: Facts on File, 1989.

"Isaac Bonewits." [Online] http://www.neopagan.net. 12 February 2002.

DELVING DEEPER

Buckland, Raymond.Amazing Secrets of the Psychic World. New York: HC Publishing, 1975.

——. Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 1986, 1997.

——. A Pocket Guide to the Supernatural. New York: Ace Books, 1969.

——. Witchcraft Ancient and Modern. (1970).

Grimassi, Raven. Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 2000.


DELVING DEEPER

Frost, Gavin, and Yvonne Frost. The Good Witch's Bible. Hinton, W.Va.: Church and School of Wicca, 1996.

——. The Magic Power of White Witchcraft. New York: Prentice Hall, 1999.

——. The Witch's Bible. New York: Berkley Books, 1975.

——. Witch's Book of Magic Ritual. New York: Prentice Hall, 2002.


DELVING DEEPER

Buckland, Raymond. Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 1987, 1997.

Crowley, Vivianne. Wicca: The Old Religion in the New Age. London: Aquarian Press, 1989.

Gardner, Gerald. The Meaning of Witchcraft. London: Aquarian Press, 1982.

——. Witchcraft Today. 1954. Reprint, London: Rider, 1982.


DELVING DEEPER

Grimassi, Raven. Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 2000.

Leek, Sybil. The Complete Art of Witchcraft. New York: New American Library, reissue 1991.

——. Diary of a Witch. New York: New American Library, 1969.

——. My Life in Astrology. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1972.


DELVING DEEPER

Franck, Irene M., and David M. Brownstone. Women's World: A Timeline of Women in History. San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995.

Kass-Simon, G., and Patricia Farnes. Women of Science: Righting the Record. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.

Murray, Margaret Alice. The Genesis of Religion. New York: Philosophical Library, 1963.

——. The God of the Witches. London: Faber and Faber Unlimited, 1952.

——. The Witch-Cult in Western Europe. 1921. Reprint, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962.


DELVING DEEPER

M. Macha NightMare's website: [Online] http://www.machanightmare.com/bio.html. 27 February 2002.

NightMare, M. Macha. Witchcraft and the Web: Weaving Pagan Traditions Online. Montreal: ECW Press, 2001.

Starhawk, M. Macha NightMare, and the Reclaiming Collective. The Pagan Book of Living and Dying: Practical Rituals, Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations on Crossing Over. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997.


DELVING DEEPER

Starhawk. Dreaming the Dark: Magic, Sex, and Politics. New York: Beacon, 1982.

——. The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess. San Francisco: HarperSanFranciso, 1999.

——. Truth or Dare: Encounters with Power, Authority and Mystery. New York: Harper & Row, 1987.

Starhawk and Hilary Valentine. The Twelve Wild Swans: Journies into Magic, Healing and Action. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000.

Starhawk, M. Macha NightMare, and the Reclaiming Collective. The Pagan Book of Living and Dying: Practical Rituals, Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations on Crossing Over. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997.

Starhawk's website: [Online] http://www.starhawk.org. 26 February 2002.


DELVING DEEPER

"Biography of Doreen Valiente" [Online] http://www.doreenvaliente.com/Biography.htm. 28 February 2002.

Grimassi, Raven. Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 2000.

Valiente, Doreen. An ABC of Witchcraft, Past and Present. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1973.

——. The Rebirth of Witchcraft. Custer, Wash.: Robert Hale and Phoenix Publishing, 1989.

——. Witchcraft for Tomorrow. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1978.



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